PHOENIX — A federal court has found former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt for willfully violating a 2011 federal court order that required his agency to stop detaining people based solely on suspected civil immigration violations.
The criminal case, which was prosecuted by the Department of Justice, is separate from the long-running civil rights case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union but arose from civil contempt proceedings in that litigation. In the civil rights case, Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio, a federal court previously ruled that Arpaio's office profiled and illegally detained Latinos, violating their constitutional rights. The judge ordered a significant overhaul of the agency’s policing practices, and the civil contempt-of-court proceedings arose after Arpaio and his top deputies repeatedly ignored the court’s orders.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang had this reaction to today’s criminal contempt conviction: “This verdict is a vindication for the many victims of Joe Arpaio’s immigration policies, which were unconstitutional to begin with, and were doubly illegal when Arpaio flouted the court’s orders. Joe Arpaio learned his lesson the hard way — no one, not even America’s so-called toughest sheriff, is above the law.”